Traffic safety data in recent years reveals a steady decline in motor vehicle-related fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently reported that traffic fatalities on U.S. roadways have decreased by 25 percent during the last decade. Based on this data, current traffic collision death rates have been on a consistent downward trend. Many of these improvements are the result of radically improved safety standards and equipment that include shoulder harnesses, more extensive air bag coverage, collision avoidance systems, and reduced speed limits.
Because the majority of these safety improvements involve more sophisticated safety equipment, it might not be surprising this positive news does not extend to motorcycle fatality and injury rates. A report from the NHTSA based on 2013 data, which is the most current information from the agency, found that motorcycle accident deaths increased every year over 13 of the preceding 14 years. The danger posed to motorcyclists is even more disturbing when disparities in the relative number of registered motorcycles and miles traveled on bikes is considered. The agency reports that motorcycle riders are 30 times more likely to die in a crash and five times more likely to be injured than occupants of cars.
The primary reason that safety trends for motorcyclists and passenger vehicle occupants are heading in opposite directions involves the lack of innovation in safety equipment for motorcycles. While manufacturers of sedans, SUV, trucks, and other passenger cars have benefited greatly from improvements in crashworthiness and safety features, motorcycles have not seen substantial safety improvements.
Admittedly, there are limits to the extent to which motorcycles can be made less dangerous, but safety standards for motorcycles have declined as fatalities have risen. The repeal of motorcycle helmet laws has resulted in many motorcyclists having less protection while riding. With mandatory universal helmet laws being repealed or liberalized, fewer people are wearing helmets with predictable results.
The impact of the repeal of Florida’s universal helmet law resulted in increased head injuries and fatalities from the moment the law was changed. During the first year after Florida authorized adult motorcyclists with $10,000 in insurance to abstain from wearing a helmet, the estimated number of fatalities increased by almost half (48.6%). When the numbers are adjusted to account for miles traveled and vehicle registrations, the estimated increase falls to between 21 percent and 38 percent.
The situation did not improve as time passed after the repeal as reflected by statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A CDC analysis that compared motorcycle fatalities during the 30 months prior to repeal of Florida’s universal helmet law to the 30 month period following the repeal found the following:
• The number of motorcycle fatalities increased 55 percent which far exceeded any anticipated increase from additional registered motorcycles.
• Hospitalizations increased by 40 percent.
• Cost of treating head injuries doubled to $44 million.
• Fatalities of unhelmeted motorcyclists under 18 increased by 188 percent.
At the Cressman Law Firm, we see the tragic consequences of motorcyclists victimized by distracted and careless drivers, so we urge riders to wear a helmet at all times. If you or someone you love has been injured or you have lost a loved one in a motorcycle crash, Winter Garden motorcycle accident attorney Mark Cressman tenaciously advocates for the rights and remedies of accident victims. Mark invites you to call to schedule a free consultation today to learn about your legal rights and obtain a case evaluation at (407) 877-7317.